(Part 1 is here.)
Despite all of these problems, civil unions do have a better chance of passage (especially in a state that already has an amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage). Such passage can lead to some real protections for real families that need them now, and not twenty years down the road. So for those people, especially politicians, who claim to support civil unions but not “marriage” for same-sex couples, I suggest the following:
- Be clear about what you mean when you say you support “civil unions”. Politicians hate to be specific, but this is particularly important. I would suggest that all the laws which apply to marriage apply equally to civil unions, but at least if one does not support that he or she should explain how it would differ and why such differences are justified.
- Do something about it. It is not enough to say you support in theory civil unions simply as a tool to justify a stance against marriage. You cannot say same-sex couples and their families do not need marriage because they can have civil unions when they don’t even have that much. For individuals, write and phone your legislators. For politicians, draft legislation and speak about the importance of protecting these families.
- Work for federal recognition of civil unions. As noted this would solve one of the biggest problems with civil unions. There is no way to argue that civil unions could provide all of the benefits of marriage when the federal government does not recognize civil unions for any purpose.
- Work for state recognition of foreign civil unions and marriages. You may wish to call a Canadian or Massachusetts marriage a "civil union", but that does not mean you must ignore it. Portability of marriage is a very important aspect and on what basis should it be denied to same sex couples?
- Make it clear that civil unions deserve the same respect as marriage outside of the law as well. I do not believe it is a wise move to use a different term here, but if one is to go this route, it needs to be understood that the commitment made in a civil union is the same as one made in a marriage and is one that we all should honor.